Perhaps the most enlightening thing I ever did was place myself in the "homeless" scene. To make a long story short, I loaded up my car with clothes and stuff to sell (rare books, small antiques I had been collecting, and a variety of other belongings. Took one last look at the upper-class town of Woodstock, CT, I had more or less called home for the past 17 out of my then (25) years, and drove away.

I hit the road and ended up on South Street in Philly.

The next two months were a blur of wandering, interacting with all sorts of people, from day traders to panhandlers. I was lucky enough to score a third-story squat on Buckingham Ave, which is near 52nd and Chesnut, west Philly. I wandered the city day and night, and learned some very interesting lessons.

The most important one is perhaps the most obvious. You are judged by what you look. No apologies, no excuses, just the plain fact. When I was unable to score a shower, and was a scrubby, I ceased to exist to the normal populance. I was eyed warily in shops. Cops gave me more than the cursory glance on the street. Other street people were more willing to talk. Whole universes of society opened and shut based on my relative appearance and demeanor.

Lesson Two: I became what I was judged as. When in "street mode", I actually felt uncomfortable around the "normal" people. At first, I was indignant when judged, as the homeless guy in the supermarket in the above node. But after a ceased to matter. I enjoyed my non-being. I reveled in it. I was what I always dreamed of being..


Lesson Three: The poser homeless disappear when the cold sets in. So I packed up my squat, loaded my car, and headed to Florida. Catch my daylogs for the story of that adventure.

My point in this whole little story..don't think because someone is scruffy and on the street they are worthless non-humans. WE ALL have a may not just be as clean and comfy as your "city-dweller" existence.
And by the way..I never panhandled once. Now if I encounter one, either I demand a story for my change, or give them some food if I have any.